Authors: Lesley Choyce
Tags: #Fiction, #JUV000000, #General, #Sports & Recreation, #Juvenile Fiction, #Medical, #Social Issues, #Friendship, #Donation of Organs; Tissues; Etc, #Health & Daily Living, #Donation of Organs; Tissues; Etc. Juvenile Fiction, #Donation of Organs; Tissues; Etc., #Diseases; Illnesses & Injuries, #Family & Relationships, #Liver, #Life Stages, #Surgery, #Soccer, #Adolescence
Copyright Â© 2005 Lesley Choyce
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data
Choyce, Lesley, 1951-
Sudden impact / Lesley Choyce.
I. Title. II. Series.
PS8555.H668S82 2005Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â jC813'.54Â Â Â C2005-904074-2
Summary: Tina needs to find an organ donor to save Kurt's life.
First published in the United States, 2005
Library of Congress Control Number: 2005929724
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Canada Council for the Arts, and the British Columbia Arts Council.
Cover design: Lynn O'Rourke
Cover photography: Getty Images
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Printed and bound in Canada
Printed on 50% post-consumer recycled paper,
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08 07 06 05 â¢ 4 3 2 1
I was excited about seeing the soccer game later, but there was something about the way Kurt was acting at lunch that worried me. He looked pale.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“I'm fine,” he said. He didn't look fine.
“Is there something wrong?” He was staring at his lunch tray, but he wasn't eating.
“I just don't think I can eat another cafeteria meal.”
“I know what you mean,” I said, but I was sure there was more to Kurt's loss of appetite. “Are you nervous about the game?”
“No way,” he said defensively. “I can't wait to play. I've been training for this day all summer.”
“But if you're sick â¦” He didn't let me finish the sentence.
Suddenly he was angry at me. “Hey, what's going on today? First my mom gives me a hard time and says I should stay home from school. Now you start hassling me.”
“Sorry,” I said. It wasn't like Kurt to be nasty to me. We always got along so well.
I was the reason Kurt made the soccer teamâbecause I like to run. I don't know why I like to run. My mother said I never walked anywhere when I was a little girl. I ran. I was always the first to arrive. It wasn't that I was in a hurry. I just liked the way I felt when I was running. Free and alive.
For a while, Kurt made fun of me. He kept saying I should slow down. And I did. If I wanted to walk to school with Kurt, I had to walk at his pace. It drove me crazy at
first, but I learned to do it because I needed him as a friend. I really did.
I had asked Kurt once if there was anything he liked to do as much as I liked running. “When I was younger, I really wanted to be good at something. First it was hockey. Then swimming. But I sucked. I was just never very good at the things I wanted to be good at.”
“What about now?” I'd asked.
“I'd like to be good at â¦ something. Soccer, I think. I play with the guys for fun, but I'm not that good. I don't have what it takes.”
“I bet you could if you wanted to.”
“I'd like to be on the school team more than just about anything in the world.”
“Then do it.”
“I can't. Tryouts are in three weeks. But it would just be a waste of time.”
“We'll train. What are you weakest at?”
He had laughed. “Running,” he'd said. “I don't seem to have any endurance. After ten minutes in a game, I'm wasted. It's embarrassing.”
“I'll be your trainer,” I'd said. “In three weeks you'll be able to run a mile. If you can run a mile, you'll do well in soccer.”
“I can't do it. I've tried before. I can't.”
“You just never had the right coach,” I'd said. “Follow me.”
And I started running. Kurt followed.
I taught him to pace himself. I told him about breathing. Sometimes he'd get a cramp and we'd stop. Even then I worried there was something physically wrong with him. Once he felt better we'd run some more. First we ran one block. Then two. Then all the way to the school. Then to the river. Then farther. By the time the tryouts started, Kurt was a runner.
He made the team and was really excited. So was Iâat first. But then I was kind of mad at him. Now it was all about soccer. No more running after school with me. Kurt started hanging out with this older guy on the team named Jason. He'd known Jason from way back, but I don't think they'd had much in common before. Now they were both on the team. Jason didn't like me, but I tried not to let it bother me.
Jason could be mean to Kurt too. Jason was sixteen, two years older than Kurt and me, and he had this way of putting people down. In the halls he'd make fun of Kurt for having a girl for a best friend as if there was something wrong with it. I'd just snap back something like, “Why don't you clean the grunge out from under your toenails and eat it for breakfast?” Jason would fake like he was hurt and slink off down the hall.
I think Jason was angry that Kurt played soccer as well as he did, even though Kurt was younger. Kurt and Jason both played halfback. They could both run five miles without getting winded, and they both had legs like lighting when it came to kicking the ball into the net.
But every time Kurt passed the ball because he had three players all over him, Jason was on him like maggots on dead meat. “What's wrong, Kurtie, legs turn to mush again?” Or, “C'mon, dude, you can't wimp out like that.” And Jason's theme song on the field, the phrase he said over and over to Kurt was, “You'll never do anything great
unless you take a few chances. Go for it, man. Don't always play it safe.” Maybe that philosophy worked for Jason.
It was the first official game of the year. Memorial was playing Fairview in what was predicted to be one very serious game of soccer. I'd been to practices before to watch Kurt, but this was different.
The Memorial coach was sending the first string out onto the field. Kurt had been playing against Jason up until nowâred team against the blue. But this was the real thing.
Two halfbacks were to go out on the field to play
and the coach had already sent out Jason. That meant he had to pick between Kurt and Dennis Rankin, one of his personal favorites. The whistle blew. The field was full except for one halfback slot on our team. Coach Kenner couldn't seem to make up his mind. He was standing there, his bald head gleaming in the sunshine, looking at the annoyed referee and shaking his head. Finally he pointed a finger at Kurt. “Go,” he said.
Kurt ran for the field, and the whistle blew. The game began and players were running back and forth like angry animals.
Fairview had the stronger team. They were faster and had better control of the ball. They scored almost as soon as the game began. Jason yelled at Kurt to get the lead out. That's when I noticed that Kurt was holding his side like he had a cramp or something. When the whistle blew again, though, he took off like lightning.
The ball was passed to Kurt and he worked it downfield, his teammates trying
to keep up with him. Just as he was about to get crowded out by his opponents, he kicked the ball across the field to Jason. Jason let out a hoot and moved deeper into Fairview territory as Kurt slipped back, slowing down and clutching his side again.
That was the funny thing about Kurt and Jason. At school, they were mortal enemies. Even during practice, Jason gave Kurt a hard time
But once they were on the field together they were like brothers. Jason set Kurt up for a good shot on goal, and then there was Kurt, setting Jason up for what should have been an easy goal.
But something went wrong. Just as Jason was about to kick the ball into the net, a Fairview player sneaked up behind him with a burst of speed and tapped the ball away to one of his own players. In an instant, the ball was headed back down the field, and the whole game shifted.
Jason tripped over the Fairview player's foot and came down hard on the grass, cursing. The trip hadn't been intentional, but Jason had a short fuse. He reached out and
grabbed the Fairview player by his jersey and pulled him down. I saw Jason say something nasty to the guy and then jab him with an elbow before rolling over. Jason stood. He looked a bit shaky and limped slightly as he tried to get back into the game.
Kurt was in the center of the action farther up the field but was having no luck getting the ball away from the Fairview player. When the guy made his move, Kurt tried to put himself in the way of the kick, but he was unsteady as he ran and couldn't do anything. Something wasn't right. Maybe it was just nerves, but I could see Kurt wasn't playing his best. I remembered that his mother had tried to talk him out of playing. I was getting worried.
Fairview scored their second goal and got a big roar of approval from the crowd that had come to support them.
Someone called a time-out, and the Fairview player who'd stolen the ball from Jason was now talking to his coach. The Fairview coach called the ref and pretty soon they were walking across to talk to Coach Kenner.
I could see Kenner looked angry, but then he nodded his head. He waved Jason off the field. Jason was in trouble for something he had said to the Fairview player, I guessed. Or that jab to the ribs. Not a nice way to play soccer. Dennis Rankin got the nod and headed out onto the field while Jason sat down to watch the game from the bench. He looked like he was ready to scream.
When the game resumed Jason started going nuts on the sidelines. He screamed something at Kurt who now had an odd wobble to the way he was running. I could tell, though, that Kurt was giving it all he had. He seemed to be moving in slow motion
but he wasn't giving up. I didn't like the look on his face
but I didn't know what to do.
Fairview had the ball, yet again, and were only meters from our goal. Kurt tried to slip
between two opposing players like a quarter being dropped into a pay phone. He ducked low, got control of the ball and suddenly got his energy back. He raced down the field and made a pass to Wicket. As soon as Wicket was swarming with Fairview defensemen, he returned the ball to Kurt.
I don't think his feet even touched the ground, and he had perfect control of the ball. A fullback and a goalie were all that were in the way. I'd seen Kurt operate with two men on him before. He could turn into a snake and get around guys like there was nothing to it.
I held my breath as he set himself up to make his shot. The ball was off. I tried to follow the ball, but then I heard an awful thud. I turned to see Kurt falling to the ground.
The Fairview fullback had tried to block Kurt's shot. He missed the ball, and his foot came up hard and caught Kurt below the ribs. I grabbed my own sides and felt sympathy pain as Kurt fell to the ground.
The heavy fullback went down right on top of him. I heard this terrifying scream
come out of Kurt. Kurt was not usually a screamer. I'd never heard him utter the slightest whimper of pain, ever. He was as tough as they come.
A whistle blew. The ball had missed the net. Nobody knew what I knew. I was over the rickety fence and running onto the field. The referee pulled the Fairview goon off of Kurt, but Kurt was still curled over on the grass.